Collisions of small ice particles under microgravity conditions

Hill, C. R.; Heißelmann, D.; Blum, J. and Fraser, H. J. (2015). Collisions of small ice particles under microgravity conditions. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 573, article no. A49.



Planetisimals are thought to be formed from the solid material of a protoplanetary disk by a process of dust aggregation. It is not known how growth proceeds to kilometre sizes, but it has been proposed that water ice beyond the snowline might affect this process. To better understand collisional processes in protoplanetary disks leading to planet formation, the individual low velocity collisions of small ice particles were investigated. The particles were collided under microgravity conditions on a parabolic flight campaign using a purpose-built, cryogenically cooled experimental setup. The setup was capable of colliding pairs of small ice particles (between 4.7 and 10.8 mm in diameter) together at relative collision velocities of between 0.27 and 0.51 m s ^-1 at temperatures between 131 and 160 K. Two types of ice particle were used: ice spheres and irregularly shaped ice fragments. Bouncing was observed in the majority of cases with a few cases of fragmentation. A full range of normalised impact parameters (b/R = 0.0-1.0) was realised with this apparatus. Coefficients of restitution were evenly spread between 0.08 and 0.65 with an average value of 0.36, leading to a minimum of 58% of translational energy being lost in the collision. The range of coefficients of restitution is attributed to the surface roughness of the particles used in the study. Analysis of particle rotation shows that up to 17% of the energy of the particles before the collision was converted into rotational energy. Temperature did not affect the coefficients of restitution over the range studied.

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